Nearly 4 years ago I picked up my first set of knitting needles, some wild purple acrylic yarn, and Knitting: Learn to Knit Six Great Projects (100% Klutz Certified). I didn't know a single knitter and had no idea where to find any knitters. Holding two pointy sticks and trying to pull loops of yarn through each other isn't very complicated sounding, but as a brand new knitter, I felt like I was all thumbs. Out of desperation, and with hole filled, uneven, and very strange looking rows of garter stitch, I turned to my computer. Beginning with knittinghelp.com, I discovered an online world filled with experts, videos, passion, fun and more. The world of podcasts, both video and audio, opened up another avenue for a lone knitter to feel like part of a community. Then, the ultimate in knitting communities, Ravelry sent out my invite and I was IN baby! Social networking, groups, knit-a-longs..yes, I finally found a local group of knitters, via the world wide web, that welcomed me with open arms.
Can social media build networks and a sense of community? Absolutely!
Librarians, especially public school librarians, often feel as if they are on an island. We make connections...with our patrons, faculty and administration, but, due to the nature of the job (and woeful lack of budgets), it is easy to miss out on professional networking opportunities with each other. Professional journals help, bringing a wealth of ideas and book reviews, but they are not near as fulfilling as an hour long conversation with a fellow librarian.
From the humble beginnings of the Internet and World Wide Web sprung the LISTSERV....a first and fabulous way to reach out to each other and find answers, tips, tricks, and sympathetic ears. Far from being archaic, LISTSERV's are still around and active and are one of the simplest ways to network. I still enjoy using the Georgia Media ListServ. These rely on email addresses and, very often, an active LISTSERV could quickly overwhelm an email account. With digest formats, an active LISTSERV becomes much more manageable, but, in the world of Web 2.0, so many other tools are available.
CPD23 finally convinced me to give Twitter a try, and while I'm not quite Twittering the day away, I have found some great tips and interacted world wide with librarians. Not too shabby for a small town librarian in the South of the USA. Google+ has also offered up a wealth of ways to connect with librarians around the world and in my own community. Even my personal Facebook account has professional lists--for fellow librarians, library journals and organizations, and some of my great techie updates that keep this geek girl happy and in the know. Before cpd23 I had not explored using social networks at all professionally....beyond the humble LISTSERV. I am a huge fan now!
One of the stumbling blocks of using social media professionally, at least for me, is that without consistency of interaction, those tenuous connections do fade away a bit. Finding a balance on using social media tools for networking, without always being online, is something for me to reflect on. Just like in real life, online networking takes a bit of effort. I can put up a blog post in a heartbeat, but taking time to read the other cpd23 blogs can be a bit daunting. I joined a tweetchat once, but finding another to participate in hasn't been easy.
With all the challenges of social media, I do feel a link. A link that connects me to librarians around the world. Some are very similar to me and some are vastly different. Some live close and some are far away. A small world? Smaller everyday, but a worldwide community? Unequivocally yes. Social networks have brought the world to my fingertips and even let me throw my two cents out there as well. Librarians interacting with each other on a world wide scale, exchanging ideas, sharing joys, victories, and sympathy, spreading the love of literacy....that is community.